Ahhh… the good old Madonna/Whore dilemma. When teens put out, they’re labeled as promiscuous, easy, and slutty. And if they don’t, they’re a prude, no fun, and frigid. A recent study even confirms it! So why do teens sext? And how can we help them make good choices?
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How common is sexting, really?
You’d be surprised. Recent reports suggest that 20% of teens have participated in sexting. It’s more common for girls than boys, with 22% to 18% respectively admitting to the behavior. And of those statistics, a whopping 11% are young girls, ages 13 to 16. What business do such young girls have sending nude photos before they’re old enough to drive?!
Words, words, words.
And even if your child isn’t sending suggestive pictures, there’s a decent chance they’re sending explicit text messages. 39% of teenagers have posted sexually suggestive messages, in this case slightly more boys than girls.
Many teens report feeling pressure from either their romantic partners or their friends. However, 51% of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images, in contrast to the 18 % of teen boys who cited pressure from female counterparts as their reason for sexting. This unfortunate double standard is never easy for teenage girls to navigate on their own.
This is a real epidemic, parents. What can you do to help?
Monitor the phone.
Some cell phone plans limit texting and prohibit images. Another solution? Invest in a cell-phone monitoring app. It allows you to track your child’s text messages, internet activity, and app use. Plus, it even lets you view deleted text messages.
You can also monitor their smartphone use the old-fashioned way by eliminating phones before bed, restricting time allowed on digital devices, requiring teens to use phones in a common area (no bedrooms), or making kids work to pay for their own cell phone plans.
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Remind teens that the internet is forever.
Chances are, your son or daughter has high aspirations about the future. Remind him or her that sharing something in the heat of the moment can have lasting, negative consequences.
Promote healthy relationships.
It’s important that teens know that a loving relationship doesn’t include doing things that make them uncomfortable. Remind them that a partner worth having is one that is respectful, compassionate, and patient. Hormones may be raging, but it doesn’t mean teens have to compromise their beliefs and values. Tell them there is plenty of time for all that when they are old enough to handle the responsibilities that come with those behaviors.
If you suspect your child has been sexting...
Take away the phone and internet privileges. Also, if your son or daughter has a boyfriend or girlfriend, sit them both down and have a talk about the sort of behavior they expect. They may be uncomfortable (and slightly mortified), but chances are, it will embarrass them enough to eliminate future sexting.
What do you think parents? Have you ever caught your teen sexting? How did you handle it? Sound off in the comments!
Tara Heath is a journalist and mother of two teenagers. She is constantly having to be alert and aware of the different issues that teens are facing, so she can protect her own children effectively.